Lars Knutsen returns to these pages after a brief absence with his own thoughts on a run of form that given us assured glory, come what may on Match 3, and real hope …
This has been a phenomenal six weeks for Sunderland football club.
After a miserable and turbulent start to the 2013-14 season, Sunderland were favourites to go down, gaining just one point in the first seven games.
With the sacking of the erratic and dictatorial Paulo Di Canio. a quiet revival has taken place under Guy Poyet, who has restored the fortunes of the team in a way that Ellis Short and CEO Margaret Byrne could only have dreamed of when they appointed the Uruguayan to the Stadium of Light hot seat. There was some momentum starting to show during the early part of December, but now we are on a terrific run.
Poyet has brought a real solidity to the team and with Saturday’s win at Newcastle, we are now on 24 points, making us one of the top five teams on recent form: http://www.premierleague.com/en-gb/matchday/form-guide.html, with the hosts second bottom to Fulham.
The 3-0 win was an almost perfect away performance against a Geordie team looking demoralised after Cabaye’s departure to PSG. I have a grudging admiration for what Alan Pardew has achieved with such a calamitous boardroom to deal with, one that may explain why there were rumours of him showing interest in the Palace job back in the capital.
The Black Cats’ revival has been catalysed by the run in the Carling Cup that has brought the team back into the limelight with some terrific performances.
Bardsley, Borini and Brown have all been born again and Johnson’s form has been a revelation, but to be honest one cannot fault any of the players at the moment. Mannone has been an excellent shot-stopper, O’Shea has benefited from the steadiness of Brown alongside him, and there have been some quietly solid performances from Ki.
Improvement across a broad front is personified in the form of Jack Colback, who did not score last season, but hit that late equaliser at Cardiff and fired a terrific clincher which killed off the Mags at the weekend
Alonso has been an excellent acquisition at left-back, which has been a problem position for the club for some years, really since George McCartney held that berth.
So the question I have is, what do we have to show from the Di Canio/De Fanti era?
When Brown and O’Shea were unavailable for that superb win at Everton on Boxing Day, the Lads had the following line-up: 25 Mannone, 12 Celustka, 02 Bardsley, 33 Cattermole, 21 Diakité, 29 Roberge. 07 Larsson, 04 Ki, 09 Fletcher (Altidore – 87′), 14 Colback (Giaccherini – 70′) and 31 Borini.
So if my memory serves me right, there were seven Di Canio era signings as part of a truly gutsy performance, bringing that 1-0 win at Goodison park.
But on that amazing semi-final night at Old Trafford, only Mannone and Borini, subbed late on by Altidore, featured from Di Canio’s summer signing spree.
Mistakes have been made, and things can still go wrong, as that collective off-day against Villa at home showed.
But fans, including myself are much more optimistic than they were a couple of months ago. There is real togetherness in the team, who are willing to sweat blood for each other.
This is a crazy Premiership, with the teams from 10th downwards all in relegation trouble. Sunderland were momentarily in 12th spot last Saturday:
Given our terrible start, mid-table obscurity and a League Cup Final to look forward to seem somehow very attractive compared to possible relegation. But my final question is: did we win at Old Trafford?
It is important to me and many others, as I remember our last victory there in 1968 as a kid. Does winning an admittedly shocking penalty shoot-out mean that we won the game? Or was it just the decider after drawing on aggregate and losing the game on the night?.
I choose to see that as a win at Old Trafford, which sets Sunderland up for their biggest game in years.
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